Opinion: Ban of Religious Symbols Creates More Problems Than It Solves

April 21, 2004

Source: National Review


On April 21, 2004 the National Review ran an opinion piece by Andrew Stuttaford on the recent ban of religious symbols in French public schools, which he sees as an attempt by the French government to provide a "quick fix" to the problem of rising religious fundamentalism which he argues that the government has itself fostered by not integrating immigrant Muslims into French society. Stuttaford writes, "it's difficult to avoid the conclusion that, even where it does not topple over into absurdity (under certain circumstances, beards too, and even bandanas, can be banned), the new law will make a bad situation worse, radicalizing the previously indifferent, creating flashpoint after flashpoint, confrontation after confrontation and, ironically, turning the hijab, a symbol of repression if ever there was one, into a token of rebellion guaranteed to appeal to the very adolescents the law is designed to govern. Worse still, this move is highly likely to spur the creation of separate Muslim schools (which under French law would be eligible for generous government subsidy) where the headscarf ban would not apply, something that would deepen still further the intellectual isolation of their pupils from the French mainstream. To add to France's predicament, if there's one thing potentially more disastrous than the enforcement of this law, it would be its repeal. Repeal would be seen as an acknowledgement of French weakness in the face of the fundamentalists, empowering them still further, and would add to the mounting unease of the native French, the Français de souche, about the Muslims in their midst. Jean-Marie le Pen could not ask for more. Yes, it's a mess, but that's the danger of trying to solve a deep-seated, difficult, and sensitive problem with a quick, politically expedient, fix."